Pages from a lost 18th century catalogue, which show the treasures of a Chinese emperor, are expected to fetch up to £50,000 when they are sold at auction next month.
The twelve paintings being sold at Salisbury auction house Woolley and Wallis come from the Huang Chao Li Qi Tu Shi (The Illustrated Regulations for Ceremonial Paraphernalia of the Present Dynasty), which was commissioned by the Qianlong Emperor in the 1750s for the Old Summer Palace in Beijing.
“The original album had over 1,300 pages in it, but the whereabouts of most of it is unknown,” said Head of Chinese Paintings, Freya Yuan-Richards. “There are examples in the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Library and other museums; and it is likely that others exist in private collections, but examples rarely make it onto the open market.”
One of China’s longest reigning emperors, Qianlong was fastidious over regulation and ceremony, and the album was produced to document the correct forms of dress, military code and ceremonial vessels for the myriad of state rituals that existed during his reign. Most of the pages being sold at Woolley and Wallis in Salisbury on 12th November depict flowered umbrellas or parasols, which would have been carried before and by different ranks of concubines during official processions. Rows of text by each painting describe the object’s correct usage.
Acquired in 1860 by Captain William Gordon Chalmers, the twelve paintings remained in his family until the 1950s when they were acquired by the father of the current owner. Scottish born Chalmers became a lieutenant in the 51st Bengal Native Infantry in 1857 and died in India in 1868.
The paintings are being sold as part of Woolley and Wallis’s Fine Chinese Paintings and Works of Art sale on Tuesday 12th November and carry an estimate of £30,000-50,000.